Study Guide

Never Let Me Go Identity

By Kazuo Ishiguro


Chapter 1
Kathy H.

My name is Kathy H. I'm thirty-one years old, and I've been a carer now for over eleven years. (1.1)

Kathy tells us three things about herself here: her name, her age, and her job. Right off the bat, we're wondering what the deal is with this "H." Why doesn't Kathy have a last name—just an initial? Plus, it seems pretty important that Kathy mentions being a carer when she first describes herself. Sounds like her job might be a really important part of her identity.

Chapter 2
Kathy H.

Everything—the walls, the floor—has been done in gleaming white tiles, which the centre keeps so clean when you first go in it's almost like entering a hall of mirrors. Of course, you don't exactly see yourself reflected back loads of times, but you almost think you do. (2.26)

The recovery center at Dover sounds just like a fun house at a fair. Having your image reflected all over the walls might be a little off-putting, but it does point out how important mirrors are. Inside the tiled walls at the recovery center, Kathy can't really escape seeing herself everywhere, which is a constant reminder of her fate.

Chapter 3
Kathy H.

So you're waiting, even if you don't quite know it, waiting for the moment when you realize that you really are different to them; that there are people out there, like Madame, who don't hate you or wish you any harm, but who nevertheless shudder at the very thought of you—of how you were brought into this world and why—and who dread the idea of your hand brushing against theirs. The first time you glimpse yourself through the eyes of a person like that, it's a cold moment. It's like walking past a mirror you've walked past every day of your life, and suddenly it shows you something else, something troubling and strange. (3.73)

Kathy doesn't like seeing herself through Madame's eyes. It's no fun to realize that other people are disgusted by you. Plus, realizing what Madame thinks of her seems to change the way Kathy thinks about herself.

Chapter 12
Kathy H.

Nevertheless, we all of us, to varying degrees, believed that when you saw the person you were copied from, you'd get some insight into who you were deep down, and maybe too, you'd see something of what your life held in store. (12.12)

According to this theory, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Or the clone doesn't fall far from her "possible." So finding your model would be like getting a cheat sheet for your own identity. But what part of your identity will you get to discover when you find this model? And what do you think Kathy means by the phrase "deep down"? Maybe she means she'll learn more about her personality. Or her soul. Or her DNA?

There were some who thought it stupid to be concerned about possibles at all. Our models were an irrelevance, a technical necessity for bringing us into the world, nothing more than that. It was up to each of us to make of our lives what we could. (12.13)

There's definitely a mix of dependence and free will in the clones' very existence. On the one hand, they rely on their model as a "technical necessity." Without their model, they wouldn't be alive at all. But on the other hand, once they've been made, the clones have to fend for themselves. Chances are, they'll never see their model again.

Chapter 14
Kathy H.

Her hair was darker than Ruth's—though it could have been dyed—and she had it tied back in a simple pony-tail the way Ruth usually did. She was laughing at something her friend in the red outfit was saying, and her face, especially when she was finishing her laugh with a shake of her head, had more than a hint of Ruth about it. (14.22)

Kathy and her friends are looking for signs that this woman might be Ruth's possible: her hair color, her mannerisms, even her ponytail. Are these the bits that make up identity? Or are they looking for the wrong clues?

Chapter 15
Kathy H.

"It's just that sometimes, every now and again, I get these really strong feelings when I want to have sex. […] That's why I started thinking, well, it has to come from somewhere. It must be to do with the way I am." I stopped, but when Tommy didn't say anything, I went on: "So I thought if I find her picture, in one of those magazines, it'll at least explain it. I wouldn't want to go and find her or anything. It would just, you know, kind of explain why I am the way I am." (15.110)

Kathy has questions about her body and she wants answers. So where else would she go looking besides the original body that she was cloned from? But really—what can that body tell her? It seems like Kathy might not realize that your environment has a lot to do with who you are and how you behave. Just look at what an effect Hailsham had on her.

Tommy D.

"It's not worth getting upset about," Tommy went on. […] "Our models, what they were like, that's nothing to do with us, Kath. It's just not worth getting upset about." (15.4)

It shouldn't surprise us that Tommy has a unique perspective. While most of the characters really want to know who their "possible" might be, Tommy is different. He sees himself as entirely separate from his clone model. Clearly Tommy values his independence.

Chapter 21
Kathy H.

I don't know if she recognised us at that point; but without doubt, she saw and decided in a second what we were, because you could see her stiffen—as if a pair of large spiders was set to crawl towards her. (21.12)

When Madame sees Kathy and Tommy outside her house, she has the same reaction she did so many years before. It's almost as if Madame isn't sure if Kathy and Tommy are human at all. How would this sentence be different if Kathy had replaced the phrase "what we were" with "who we were"?

Chapter 22
Kathy H.

I realised, of course, that other people used these roads; but that night, it seemed to me these dark byways of the country existed just for the likes of us, while the big glittering motorways with their huge signs and super cafés were for everyone else. (22.86)

Check out how Kathy sets up a contrast here between "other people" and "the likes of us." It's as if she's segregated the roads for different types of people. Well, this kind of thinking makes one thing clear: Kathy sure does see herself as different from the rest of society.